Wednesday, January 30, 2013

more than half of me

Friday marks another beginning of the annual event in our house known as Valentines.  Many of you who know me, know what this means.  Some of you wish that you didn't.  Some of my guy friends wish that their wives didn't.  For the rest, let me just say that this isn't your grandmothers version.  I'm not talking about the once a year, flowers, chocolates and dinner reservations type of event.  I decided long ago that I didn't need FTD, Hallmark, or Yelp to drive my observation of the holiday.  This isn't meant to be judgement on the rest...it's simply a reflection of the least I can do to honor my soul mate and the best half of my life.  Simply put, our celebration goes from the 1st to the 14th.  It does include flowers, dinner, and cards.  The biggest part of it though is the daily, intentional demonstration of love and honor through little expressions and experiences that, quite honestly, are not costly at all, unless you count the investment of yourself.
Many years ago, understanding that the landslide of life was threatening to overwhelm the details and moments that hold relationships together, I was convicted that our relationship was worth more than a days concentrated investment.  If my faith in the God who modeled love was real and present, one of the most important places for this to manifest was in my marriage.  I thought back to our dating days when everyday was invested in how I could demonstrate my love.  It can come to a point in life, after you both say "I do", that we begin to think thoughts like "they know".  I don't need to buy flowers because "they know".  I don't need to express my love with cards and notes because "they know".  Knowing that they know is not a valid excuse for not showing what you feel.  Neglect is a leading cause of disintegration and one of the poorest excuses.
I knew and I know that I could and I can do better.  Everyday during these next two weeks takes an investment in creativity and thought, both to incorporate something fresh along with some old favorites that help her glimpse the tip of the iceberg of her value to me.  She is the best part of me and continues to help refine the rough spots.  We can complete each others sentences.  We hear each other when neither of us is speaking.  When we are "on" there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.
It is a smooth meshing of gears, clutch, and footwork that can make a manual transmission so sweet.
When we are not on.... Well it's a bit like teaching someone to drive stick for the first time.  Within the grinding there is still the miracle of getting there intact and surviving to drive another day.
If you know us you understand the "opposites attract" rule.  She is fun, I am not so much.  She is spontaneous, I am not so much.  She is hospitable, I'm working on it.  In fact, logic might dictate that she was the likely candidate for this ministry gig and I was an afterthought.  In fact, early on anyway, that was the impression from some.  The truth is that, if her outward people oriented disposition led the way we would not be a ministry in Seattle.  We would not have been in ministry in New York.  In fact, we would not be in ministry at all.  The fact that we are is a testament to her openness to God, faith in me, and willingness to follow.  The strength of my ministry originates in the same places.  It may sound cliche to state that without her I would not be half the man that I am, but it is undeniably fact.  So the next two weeks is dedicated to unapologetically showing her how much that I value her. Happy Valentines month!


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ghost writing

So last week I had the privilege of being in the enchanting realm of the mouse.  While my Seattle friends were suffering  through some particularly frigid temperatures, I was tagging along with my wife at her conference in the wonderful world of Disney.  It's a tough life, but occasionally I can bear the burden.  Anyway, it afforded me the opportunity to take part in some very insightful and sometimes inspirational people watching.... Sometimes not so inspirational.
One of the sadder trends that I've observed over the years is one facilitated by the tsunami of social media.  In a place that almost screams presence, many are not at all...present I mean.  In their desire to be connected to their circles, they become disconnected to their surroundings.  I often wonder how they are tweeting and facebooking the experiences that they are not actually taking part in.  This year, in particular, I was witness to, in my opinion, a great casualty of living your life online.  This event took place during the famed Magic Kingdom parade.  If you've never been to one, you may not understand this, but it is exceedingly popular and almost a must for a complete experience during a day at Disney.  Some people can actually be quite rabid and unreasonable in their desire to get the perfect viewing spot.  For each and every parade the Disney dignitaries offer the chance for the best seats in the house to a fortunate family, couple, group, whatever, you get the picture.  These seats are at the very front of the parade in the grand marshalls vehicle.  If the stars are aligned for you and you are chosen for this honor, there is only one responsibility.  You smile and wave.  That's all, smile and wave.  In each and every Disney parade that I have ever been witness to this is exactly what I have seen...smiling and waving at the thousands who are smiling and waving back at you.  Tragically, not this day.  On this particular day last week I watched, sadly, the grand marshalls car, complete with the required family, winding its way along the parade route.  From my vantage point I could see quite a distance in both directions.  I wished that I couldn't.  In the car sat a family of four, excitedly smiling and waving...or at least three of them were.  The mom had her head down, intently, no almost longingly, gazing at her "not so smart" phone....texting.  Are you kidding me?  Unfortunately I am not.  The experience of a lifetime and instead of living it, she was texting that which should couldn't possibly have known...yet it was right there for her.
It left me with this very profound question, or at least I think that it is.  How many of us are living life in this way?  How many of us are letting ghost writers craft our story for us?  How many counterfeits are walking around tweeting that which they are not even subject to because their gaze is down and not forward?  In an informal study conducted at Disney by my wife and I, it was our observation that the ratio of women to men experiencing the parks through social media and text were easily 10 to 1.  Don't kill the messenger, but I think that it says something about a culture in which even the biggest ignoramus would agree that women are more relational than men.  In other words, those most hungry for relationship were ignoring the very people that they could relate to.   It tells me that, for whatever reason, they are, in a phrase, " looking for love in all the wrong places".  Living your life online is a sign that its not being lived in real time.  I will leave it to the sociologists to figure that one out.
As for me, since I live in a glass house, I can't afford to throw stones.  I have had my share of ghost writing represented within my own life...times when I'd rather live through someone else than write
it first hand.
As a pastoral artist I have many conversations with people disillusioned with the God that I know because of the experiences of others.  Rather than embark on their own journey of discovery, they, for various reasons, have chosen to live vicariously through the spiritual tweets of others.  If this happens to speak to you, let me be an encouragement when I tell you that the parade is set before us.  In fact we are in the midst of it.  You have two choices.  You can put your head down or lift it high and enjoy the moment.  Don't rely on the words of others to write your story...chances are they've never seen the celebration.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Breath

It's a frosty clear winter morning here in the great Northwest...the kind of morning
that really separates those native to Seattle and those from all points elsewhere.  The natives, while uncomfortable, are drawn to the elusive sight of the sun like moths to a flame.  Those from sunny points south, not at all impressed by the sunlight, have all but disappeared under the fleece and down filled jackets, shivering like their hairless dogs that share the same attire.  Meanwhile, those of us from places that experience real winter for significant parts of the calendar wander with wistful memories of days past in former lives, remembering fondly the otherwise bite of sub freezing air entering our lungs.  In other words, we are enjoying these days in an auld Lang syne kind of way.  Being from the snow belt of upstate New York, I represent the latter view.
One sign of the cold that I can't get enough of is watching my own breath leave its place of warmth to react quite dramatically in a cloud of manufactured smoke.  I still remember the imagination of my younger days that gave the seemingly cool illusion of smoking way before I was old enough.  Now that I'm beyond old enough, and entirely too cheap to take up smoking, I confess to still appreciating the illusion.  Beyond that bit of ridiculousness though, I am reminded every time I see these wisps that there are real people behind them...literal souls that inhale and exhale.  Individuals trudging through cold mornings each leave their own individuals trails, there for a moment and then gone again, waiting for the next exhale.  When individuals blend into groups, their wisps intertwine like the lives that are represented in them, each breath an individual story waiting to be shared and then offered up to the giver of breath.  These wisps are stories, mixed, mingled, and then disappearing again after a time.
In these moments I am reminded that I am as responsible for my own interaction as I am for my own exhaling.  As my own wisp interacts with another, so does my life...and I am responsible for that, for better or worse.  It reminds me, if I let it, that with the same effort it takes me to exhale, I can influence another for good or for bad.  I can be reminded, if I take the time, that the exhale of another represents the soul of another created in the image of the breath giver.  I can, within the same wisp, represent the sun to a native of this place or the cold and dark to those from points south.  Watching ones breath can be a reminder that there is a story behind each one...and even a brief exchange of words can alter a story long after the wisps disappear.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

On writing a new page

Jaywalked my way across the street to Red Cup this morning because I was in more of a hurry than usual.  I got up late....well it was late for me anyway, later than I had planned...and we all know what the plan means to me.  The plan is everything.  I love it when a plan comes together...and consequently, when it doesn't, I can get desperate.  It can force me to jaywalk.  Mine is once again a do as I say, not as I do kind of day.  It's a bit ironic since I had "planned" to get up earlier because I had "planned" to write something about what I had "planned" to pursue this coming year.  So I'm laughing at the irony...seriously I'm laughing here, just me and my americano.  For those of you not versed in coffee culture, that's a drink, not some US tourist in Latin America.
One of my "plans" for 2013 is actually to change my drink of choice over to these.  It's better for my waistline.  It's better for my cholesterol.  Is better for my wallet.  Americano straight up in 2013.  I say that as the steam from mine this morning is fogging up my glasses, reminding me that Father Time stopped by yesterday to collect another year and point me towards this one.  I'm convinced now, at the beginning of this one, maybe more than ever before, that my life is indeed a story.  Each year is a chapter and everyday is a page.  Someone much wiser than I am has put it in terms of God as the author and we are the characters.  I'm not so sure.  I do think that God has a story " in mind".  I've come to believe now though that I am more the author of my story.  Before I'm given up as an agnostic bordering on humanist, let me complete my thought.  I'm of the opinion (emphasis opinion) that I'm the author, but He (emphasis on HE) is the editor...and beyond that he's quite possibly the entire publishing committee.  I know that I will now be forever be written off by my Calvinist friends...that's ok, it was probably already destined to be that way.
Here's the point though, and there is one.  I as the author, have a page to offer each and everyday.  I, as was the case with the authors of old, also have been granted an eraser.  I can begin again.  This morning when my first draft didn't cut it, I had the thought, for the first time in a long time, to grab the eraser and begin again.  If my theory holds true, every year a chapter and every day a page, I can afford the time to erase.  Lets face it...the main obstacle to all of our resolutions for the new year is the imminent day that we fail to keep them.  The story is the goal, not the page, and sometimes not even the chapters.  The story doesn't resolve itself in a day, nor does a life.  Now don't misunderstand....I am not saying that days don't matter, and choices that make up the day don't matter.  I'm simply saying that its quite possible that you could erase and begin again on your quest to a better story.  It's better than giving up  on the whole book.  I can take heart in knowing that, although my writing may have flaws, I do have an editor who has the ability to make it a best seller.